Monday, December 22, 2014

The Nativity Play--Dress Rehearsal

The kids will be in a Nativity play on Christmas Eve, playing an angel and King Herod. We had a dress rehearsal the other day, which is one of my favorite times to take photos because I don't have to stay in my seat. The play begins with Gabriel announcing to Mary and then Joseph what is to come. Then they sing O Come Emmanuel (with the help of the Innkeeper).

Meanwhile, the Wise Men were busy finding wise things on their smartphones. Ha, ha.

 The kids were really into singing. Desert Girl added a little stretching. She has a really hard time sitting still for 20 minutes. I'll just pretend she's fluttering around like an angel.

The little kids always add some comedic relief to the play. Thank goodness they have the older kids to hold it all together.

Of course, sometimes the older kids have their fun too. Mary decides her feet are sore, so she puts them up on the makeshift manger. I remember putting my feet up a lot when I was pregnant.

Later, Joseph and Mary had a little tussle over who got to hold the improvised Baby Jesus. It was funny to watch.

My angel!

The shepherds hung out on their hill, tending their sheep. Actually all their sheep were missing (the cast is a little small due to families being out of town), so they just played with their imaginary sheep.

And tried out some wrestling moves. The angels didn't approve.

Meanwhile, King Herod waited patiently on his throne, running shoes ready to make a mad dash if need be.

The three Wise Men came to visit him and find out where the newborn King was.

Later, King Herod died.

And the play ends with Joy to the World. It is so joyous to see the kids better understand the Nativity play and the true meaning of Christmas.
We'll see what interesting expressions transpire on Christmas Eve as they do the play with a big audience and lights and microphones. It's always good for a few chuckles. Thanks so much to Sharon for organizing it and directing the aspiring actors.

Wishing you a joyous Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice! And a Hike in the Burbank Hills

 Last Sunday morning we decided to take a hike. We couldn't go too far or too long because we had to get back in time for church, but we knew we wanted to get out and celebrate nature.

The weather was cooperating, cool, but not cold or warm. And the recent dusting of snow on the higher mountains made them look so big.

Before long our truck looked tiny. You can see snow-covered Wheeler Peak and Jeff Davis Peak in the background.

We went up a small canyon we had never been in before. We all agreed (well at least the kids and I did) that we should take ropes next time!

Holes pocked the rock faces, and we walked the base of the cliffs looking for caves.

Of course we had to take some snack breaks.

And check out some holes.

I also had fun trying out a new lens, a 100mm macro. In the shade, frost clung to the leaf margins.

The backlit rock spirea was gorgeous.

We weren't content to stay in our little canyon, so we found a way to scramble to the top (the dog had the hardest time). We then had a nice view of Garrison, Utah.

Going a little higher, we reached this view.

Time was running short, so we had to find a way down. We cliffed out one way so had to backtrack and find another way.

It was a fabulous hike, even if the kids got a little crabby at the end. My husband and I really like checking out places that don't have trails and test our scrambling abilities. It's even better when they're just a short drive away!

p.s. The winter light was fantastic for photography. Shadows will be at their longest today, winter solstice. Happy shortest day of the year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Polar Express

 We went over the hills (recently snow covered and with shifting clouds)…and through the woods (as long as you consider pinyon and juniper at the mountain passes as woods)...

…to the Polar Express we go. We found it in East Ely, with beautiful sunlight on the Schell Creek Range.

The Polar Express is a big money maker for the Nevada Northern Railway. They had three passenger cars hooked up to a diesel engine, and three trains running on Saturday. We opted for the 4:30 train.

They have a special license so they can follow the story of The Polar Express. We got our Believe tickets and boarded the train.

We went with friends, and the kids had so much fun hanging out together. The train was nicely decorated.

As we pulled away from the East Ely Depot, waiters adorned in white coats passed out hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. We all enjoyed those!

We listened to the story of The Polar Express as the waiters showed pictures from the book. We also had fun looking out the window to check out the holiday lights.

Before long we arrived at the North Pole, where Santa and an elf got on the train. Then came the hardest part: waiting for Santa to arrive at our train car. The kids were getting quite impatient. We probably waited about 45 minutes, so it was a long time to be parked there, the windows fogging up. The waiters tried to help time pass by singing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".

Finally, Santa arrived. Desert Girl is still somewhat scared of Santa, but Desert Boy isn't. Even though he doesn't believe, he still doesn't hesitate to tell Santa what he wants (something his parents aren't going to get him, and he knows it).

The way back was relaxing with the click clack of the train wheels over the track. We sang some Christmas carols and then entertained ourselves.
I almost forgot the best part of the trip. A waiter mentioned soon after we got on the train that we were heading north to the North Pole. Desert Boy said in a loud voice, "We're not going north!" He was right, we were heading west. Everyone started laughing, it was delivered just at the right time and the right tone of voice. The conductor came over and tried to convince him, but Desert Boy knew better.

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge Recap

 Did you take Desert Survivor's Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge? To refresh your memory, the challenge was to set a goal of a number of nights camping out in 2014 and then try to meet them. If you did take the challenge, how did you do?

Our goal was 12 nights of camping.

How did we do?

I'll tell you in a moment, but first some of the camping highlights.

Over spring break we camped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in southwest Utah. We had a dusting of snow surprise us, but that also provided some excellent opportunities to slide down the dunes.

It was nice to have warmer camping as we entered summer. We didn't have to go far to have fun. We had a super time camping in the yard with visiting cousins.

Desert Girl said her favorite camping trip was with cousins up Snake Creek. She loved spending time with her cousin Lola, below, who she doesn't see often.

One of the things I liked best about camping this year was taking photos of the marvelous night sky. The Milky Way leaped out on long exposures.

Another great part of camping was getting out to places as a family that we otherwise wouldn't have visited. One such place was the Schell Creek Range, an amazing place that most people would never associate with Nevada.

Next year we might even try for a backpacking trip. I imagine Desert Girl will still be dressed stylishly.

 Probably the most dramatic camping spot my husband and I visited all year was on Ingraham Flats on Mount Rainier, where we slept on a glacier.

The view was even better from above, where we could see the huge crevasses opening up below the tents.

Some of our camping had fun amenities, like a fussball table. For kids, those extras can make all the difference!

So how did we do for the challenge?
Desert Boy and Desert Girl camped out 11 nights, I camped out 16 nights, and my husband camped out 4 nights. So we didn't all quite meet our goal of 12, but we sure had a good time getting closer to nature.

We're planning in 2015 to do the Get-Out-And-Camp Challenge again. Maybe you'll join us?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting Ready for Christmas

 We've been counting down on our Advent calendar and lighting candles on our Advent wreath (Desert Boy especially likes it this year because we let him light the candles). We've also had a visit to Santa, where Desert Boy told him he wanted "something good to happen to him."

What did Desert Girl want?
 She didn't say.

While we were in town we checked out Ely's huge Christmas tree, along with a visit to the Art Bank to see the ever-changing array of art for sale and on display.

Last weekend it was time for us to get our own Christmas tree. We got a $4 BLM permit and went up the mountain in search of the perfect tree. Except we were looking in an area without many white firs, the kind of tree we wanted this year. That just meant a little extra hiking on a very nice day.

We eventually found the tree. It was a little big. We didn't let that stop us.

We had to cut down the tree twice so that we could actually fit it into the back of the truck.

The kids did a great job decorating it. (Can you spot any of our solar system ornaments?) Most of the ornaments are on the lower part of the tree, but we managed to get a few higher up.

Last night we enjoyed a Christmas banquet with delicious food and outstanding music. And the amazing sunset is a prelude to a winter storm expected to arrive later today and bring snow. So it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
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